Your house cat likely isn’t offered nearly as many enrichment activities as your dog, unless they are leash-trained. While your pooch is out and about, sniffing a thousand different scents each day, your cat is reduced to eating and sleeping inside. Feline enrichment reduces your indoor cat’s boredom and stress. Like puzzles for people and sniffing for dogs, enrichment for cats offers them the opportunity to exercise their brain, from the comfort of home.
Why is feline enrichment so important for my cat?
By providing your cat with a wide variety of enrichment activities that cater to all their senses, you can help prevent a multitude of physical and behavior problems. Cats who suffer from lack of enriching activities become bored, which can lead to stress, anxiety, reclusiveness, and aggression. Other issues your bored cat may display include:
- Bullying and intercat aggression
- Retreating from interaction
- Overarousal and inappropriate play interactions
- Inappropriate elimination
- Loss of or excessive appetite
- Weight gain
- Feline idiopathic cystitis
Through regular enrichment activities and daily interaction, you can boost your cat’s mental, emotional, and physical health.
What types of feline enrichment would benefit my cat?
Cats are a prey and predator species, so providing enrichment that focuses on each side’s needs is crucial for a happy, healthy cat. You can also separate enrichment into categories that play to your cat’s senses, ensuring a healthy variety for maximum mental stimulation.
When choosing the enrichment types for your cat, consider their personality, play style, and favorite toys and rewards. Here are a few ways to begin incorporating physical and mental health into your indoor cat’s daily routine:
- Physical play enrichment — Like dogs, cats need daily play time to satisfy their physical activity requirements. Ideally, a cat should have 30 minutes of playtime each day, although it can be broken into shorter periods. At least half this playtime should be social play with a person, while the other half can be with toys and puzzles.
- Sight enrichment — Have you noticed that your cat becomes intense when they see a small animal on TV? Many DVDs, TV programs, and apps can entertain your cat with all manner of species, from birds and squirrels, to fish and mice. You can also place a bird feeder and bath outside your cat’s favorite lounging window for more natural enrichment.
- Sound enrichment — During nice weather, open your windows so your cat can hear the outdoor nature sounds, such as bird chirps and squirrel chatter. Interactive toys that create a variety of noises to entice your cat to play are also available.
- Scent enrichment — Catnip doesn’t affect all cats, but can serve as an entertaining form of scent enrichment. Spritz catnip spray on a favorite toy, or purchase a catnip-stuffed mouse for a fun-filled playtime for your cat.
- Taste enrichment — Ditch your cat’s food dish and feed them solely from food puzzles. These can be stationary objects that require problem-solving skills to reach the food, or interactive, robotic toys that bring out the hunter in your cat. Search online for ideas on DIY food puzzles for your cat, and regularly swap out puzzles.
- Touch enrichment — Scratching posts are essential for your cat’s physical and mental well-being. Provide a variety of textures and shapes for your cat to practice nail care, and to rub against to deposit pheromone markers.
- Social enrichment — You may think cats are more independent than dogs, but they enjoy their “people time,” too. Set aside time each day for petting, grooming, playing, or teaching tricks.
When choosing the best enrichment activities for your cat, keep in mind that the most important options will fulfill their need to express normal behavior. Your cat needs to perch, hide, scratch, climb, and survey their territory, so provide plenty of opportunities for these behaviors. In addition, provide other resources they need such as litter boxes, food and water dishes, scratching posts, beds, and perches. If too few resources are available in multicat households, their stress and anxiety will be increased, but a proper setup can ensure a happy, healthy feline household.
Do you think your cat’s odd behavior is caused by lack of enrichment? If your feline friend is urinating outside the litter box, over grooming, or hiding, contact our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team for a consultation.